- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

D.C. Council members convened an ad hoc committee Tuesday, stressing that transparency will be a priority as the panel proceeds with its ethics investigation of council member Jack Evans.

“Anything we do, as far as I am concerned, the presumption is that it is open and available to the public,” said council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chair of the ad hoc committee.

The 13-member council voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution giving the committee subpoena power and directing it to offer recommendations within 90 days of receiving a law firm’s investigative report on Mr. Evans. The resolution also authorizes the general counsel to enforce subpoenas if witnesses fail to comply with them.

The D.C. Council hired the O’Melveny & Myers law firm in July to conduct an investigation to determine whether Mr. Evans violated the council’s code of conduct. Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, resigned from the Metro Board of Directors after the transit agency accused him of an ethics breach in failing to disclose his business dealings with potential Metro contractors. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Nicole Streeter, the D.C. Council’s general counsel, said Tuesday she expects to receive the report from O’Melveny & Myers on Nov. 1, adding that the report will be distributed simultaneously to the ad hoc committee to begin review.

Ms. Streeter said the report will be made public after she redacts any information that would violate attorney-client privilege, as well as personal information like cellphone numbers and email addresses.

At Tuesday’s ad hoc committee meeting, Mrs. Cheh said O’Melveny & Myers attorneys will attend the panel’s next meeting to answer questions about the report and lawmakers will discuss their initial impressions. The 12-member committee includes every council member except Mr. Evans.

“I hope that as we go forward, we will get consensus on the issues we take up. If that is not possible, we will vote,” Mrs. Cheh said, adding that it would take a majority vote to take action such as entering an executive session or requesting further investigation, and that a tie vote would mean a measure has failed.

If the committee does not vote to do more investigation, its third meeting will be dedicated to hearing from Mr. Evans, she said.

Mrs. Cheh said the committee will discuss possible disciplinary action at its fourth meeting. Such action could be a reprimand, censure, expulsion or an action not outlined in the council’s code of conduct such as removing Mr. Evans from all committee assignments.

The committee will conclude with its last meeting, at which time members will vote on their recommendation and make it available to the full council, she said.

In addition to the report, the committee will consider the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability settlement with Mr. Evans, as well as the Metro ethics investigation, Mrs. Cheh said.

Several council members raised concerns about what kinds of information would be redacted for the public version of the investigative report.

The law firm was supposed to have completed its investigation over the summer, but many of the witnesses refused to comply with subpoenas to be interviewed, delaying the report.

Before recessing for the summer, the council stripped Mr. Evans of his chairmanship of the Finance and Revenue Committee, after having reprimanded him over the findings of the Metro investigation.

Mr. Evans, the District’s longest-serving lawmaker, also is being investigated by federal authorities. He is facing a grassroots recall campaign and several challengers in next year’s Democratic primary.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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